Canadian Electrical Wholesaler

Feb 24, 2020

Michelle BraniganBy Michelle Branigan

We are in an Age of Disruption. Extant and emerging technologies are driving significant evolution in the way work is done across all sectors of Canada’s economy and no industry, including electricity, will be immune.

Think of the technologies and businesses that have changed the way we live, work and connect with each other. Uber. Airbnb. Spotify. Facebook. Twitter. Duolingo. The list is long and what’s fascinating is that these are companies that did not exist 20 years ago. Yet these are common words in our lexicon today. For those of us who still miss Blockbuster (okay, guilty), it has been a sometimes jarring experience to see long established giants go by the wayside due to their failure to innovate.

In the electricity sector smart grids, cyber security, privacy concerns, automation, carbon capture and storage, and the electrification of transportation are just a few drivers and technologies that are reshaping the industry’s landscape and moving the goalposts for workforce development at the same time.

While automation and artificial intelligence (AI) may eliminate very few occupations completely in the next decade, it will affect portions of almost all jobs to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the type of work they entail and the variability of tasks.

Anticipating the impacts of these changes is not always easy, be it as an employer, an educator or a policy maker. But it is vital that employers — and employees — are aware of how these changes will affect the demand for workers in the sector, how jobs will be impacted and the skills profiles and training requirements of future workers in the sector. We know from our research that the electricity sector of tomorrow will require workers with strong digital and data analysis skills. Yet according to EHRC’s latest report, Work Transformed, most workers in the sector have only slightly or somewhat developed digital skills. Whether their jobs will be displaced or transformed by technology, workers will require some new training or upskilling to adapt to new requirements. Although many people are concerned that jobs will disappear as a result of automation and AI (and in some cases they will), the reality is that some innovations will create entirely new jobs that did not exist before.

Both employers and employees have a role in ensuring workers have the skills need to succeed. Organizations need to be prepared to adapt the change, and that means asking questions about organizational structure, competition and their willingness to innovate. Nobody wants to be the next Kodak.

Are you ready? Here are some of the question you need to ask yourself:

  • What are the technological changes that will affect my sector?
  • What will be the effect of these changes? 
  • How will new technologies change labour demand? Will I be able to access the workforce I need? Do I need to invest in training for my current workforce? What are their specific skills and how will they need to evolve? How do I compete for top talent?
  • When are these changes expected to occur? 
  • What is my skill set? Will I be impacted in my role as a result of new tech brought into the company? Am I ready to upskill or retrain?

While there is still much debate in this industry as to how quickly the sector will evolve, I would position that the time to act is now. Waiting to see how things will “play out” is not an option. As Geoffrey Chaucer so sagely wrote, “Time and tide wait for no man.” Let’s add technology to that list.

Michelle Branigan is CEO, Electricity Human Resources Canada.

CEW market research 400By John Kerr

The past nine weeks have been to say the least a challenge across the electrical industry. From agents to suppliers, from end users to the electrical channel, all have been affected, all have been forced to think differently and all have begun the journey to retooling the way we operate.

This is the third report in our series quantifying and exploring how electrical wholesalers have had to adapt and how they are looking to find a way forward. For this we have taken a different approach from our previous reports in that we have incorporated the results from our recent survey alongside personal interviews and discussions with electrical distributor teams across Canada

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arkest Before the Dawn, Part 2

CEW 9 JK Figure 1 700By John Kerr

I spoke in my previous article about my father’s quote darkest before the dawn. Well, he had another saying clearly brought forward by his growing up in the depression. He would say, “Money is not everything. It just helps,” and at a time like this when there are so many storylines of effort above and beyond the call, and so many initiatives underway by electrical distributors, there will be a rallying right across the country. The electrical distributors are moving, reacting, and more adaptable than ever before. 

The current situation we find ourselves in is to say the least fluid, dynamic and somewhat disconcerting for many, but underlying it is a focused, disciplined approach to addressing the new norm and new reality. Some branches remain closed, some open with minimal staff, and others rotating staff and working differently than ever before.

Recent public reports by Wesco and Rexel have indicated drops approaching 23% through mid April and clearly ones that demonstrated a slowdown from mid March. Our discussions with both distributors and end users/contractors alike confirm their buying and purchasing activity were curtailed more aggressively in early April.

Over 106 electrical distributors responded to our recent survey with 73% from corporate and branch management. 

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Gurvinder ChopraBy Gurvinder Chopra

This June, Canadians will commemorate Electrical Safety Month; June also marks the fourth month of the COVID-19 pandemic national lockdown. For many Canadians, working from home has become the new normal. As confinement continues, the demand for constant power feed to connect to the world we now live, work, and play in at home has grown substantially. Homes are being equipped with new technologies that offer plenty of benefits, but they also place high demand on electrical systems at home, potentially causing serious safety risks. 

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David GordonBy David Gordon

In talking with distributors and manufacturers it is clear that many are actively in the planning and pivoting mode, moving from survivability to thriveability. They’ve stabilized their business financially, emotionally (from a staff viewpoint) and operationally. Now they are looking at “doing business,” and more financially secure ones are identifying ways to take share.

This doesn’t mean that others are not planning and pivoting. Some didn’t miss a beat; others typically don’t do much planning and live in the moment. 

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Building Permits - MarchThe total value of building permits issued by Canadian municipalities decreased 13.2% to $7.4 billion in March, with declines reported in seven provinces and two territories. The $1.1 billion national decrease was the largest since August 2014. This reflected notable drops in Ontario (-12.9%), Quebec (-18.1%) and British Columbia (-19.4%), which coincided with efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

 Value of residential permits down

The total value of residential permits decreased 13.1% to $4.6 billion in March.

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Changing Scene

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EIN evolve 400As we continue to respond to the changing status with the COVID-19 outbreak, EFC is taking preventative measures to protect conference delegates from any further risks associated with this virus. After much consideration and consultation, the EFC Board has decided to cancel EFC’s Industry Conference in Banff which was rescheduled from late May to September 1 - 3, 2020. This decision was difficult but necessary for the safety of our members, employees, and the community.

One of EFC's key mandates, is to deliver a premier national thought-leadership conference for industry members, partners, and affiliates. 

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Sonepar's Gaurav SharmaA new video featuring Sonepar’s Vice President of eCommerce and Digitalization, Gaurav Sharma, answers COVID-19 related questions regarding Sonepar Canada’s digital solutions, his team, and the future of eCommerce in the electrical wholesale industry.

Among new solutions introduced by Sonepar: customers can now create an online account through a simple text message. Traffic on Sonepar’s website has tripled since the pandemic began, and the number of new accounts has doubled. Many Sonepar locations also feature curbside pick-up.

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Schneider ElectricThe Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA) is pleased to announce the appointment of Hugo Lafontaine, Vice-President Digital Energy at Schneider Electric Canada. CABA is an international nonprofit industry association that provides information, education and networking to help promote advanced technologies for the automation of homes and buildings.

“We are delighted to welcome Hugo Lafontaine to CABA's Board,” said Ron Zimmer, CABA President & CEO “He brings a stellar background in building systems integration and the building automation market, and a wealth of insight into the digital platforms and solutions that will define smart-building innovations now and into the future.”

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Harold HayesHarold Hayes, a stalwart of the electrical industry, passed away peacefully in Scarborough, Ontario at the age of 90 on May 9, 2020.

Harold joined the industry as an apprentice at age 18, working first for his father’s business, Power Cable Installations, and then for Comstock. Among his later accomplishments, he formed Federal Pioneer Electric’s electric heating division, served as president of the Ontario Electric League in 1985, and while in his 80s consulted for Intellimeter Canada Inc.

 

 

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Peers & Profiles

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Sarah SilversteinBlake Marchand

Sarah Silverstein is a principal with Liteline along side her two brothers Mark and Daniel. Together, they lead the company founded by their father, Steve Silverstein, who retired in 2018.

Although she initially pursued a career in outdoor education, Sarah was instrumental in the company’s expansion into architectural lighting and the U.S. market. She joined Liteline as a project manager in between stints working in outdoor education. Now she leads Liteline’s U.S. distribution arm and marketing department.

 

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